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Gréville, Edmond T (1906-66)

Director, Producer, Actor

Main image of Gréville, Edmond T (1906-66)

Edmond Thonger Gréville was born in Nice on 20 June 1906, the son of Anglo-French parents, a schoolteacher and a Protestant evangelist. Initially he worked in France as a film journalist and critic. His first studio experience came in England in 1928 when he worked as an assistant on Piccadilly for E. A. Dupont, whose methods of visual story-telling he much admired. Gréville's first feature as a director was Le Train des Suicides (France, 1931), a fanciful drama featuring his actress wife, Vanda Gréville. But the milestone film was Remous (France, 1934), a provocative drama of desire and frustration, tardily released in France after its success in Britain. Remous firmly established Gréville's baroque visual style, marked by mobile camerawork, surprising transitions, and much play with reflections in mirrors and puddles; it also demonstrated his fascination with sexual anguish.

Building on the British attention given to Remous, Gréville established his own London company in June 1935. Gypsy Melody (1936), a hoary melodrama starring Lupe Velez and the gypsy orchestra leader Alfred Rode, was its sole feature, and the company never lived up to its chosen name, British Artistic Films. Gréville's susceptibilities found much better outlets in subsequent British films. His knack for exploring complex, sometimes erotic relationships bore particular fruit in Phoenix Films' Brief Ecstasy (1937), a tale of passion raging outside marriage, featuring Linden Travers, Paul Lukas and Hugh Williams, strongly praised in a review by Graham Greene for its camera sense and atmosphere of 'starved sexuality'. Phoenix's Secret Lives (1937), a visually resplendent anti-war film wrapped up in a spy story, and the more ponderous Mademoiselle Docteur (1937), made for Max Schach's Grafton Films, dealt with ambiguous allegiances and treasonable love.

Gréville was happy working in Britain, but an ambitious film project about Shakespeare failed to make headway with financiers, and he returned to Europe in 1938. French successes included Menaces (1939), an evocative portrait of war clouds gathering, set in a Paris hotel, and a powerful Zola adaptation, Pour une nuit d'amour (1946). In his visual language and attitudes to sex he stayed defiantly continental, although several post-war British ventures led him closer into British society than any of his 1930s films. Soho prostitutes and vice racketeers peopled Noose (1948), a vigorous, slyly comic spiv drama adapted from Richard Llewellyn's play; over a decade later, Beat Girl (1960) deployed Adam Faith, Shirley Ann Field, and other signs of the times in a lurid tale of Soho strip clubs and murder.

As Gréville's output continued, his artistic urge became increasingly dwarfed by commercial needs: his last British venture was The Hands of Orlac (1960), a disappointingly routine horror film (he also directed its French version). But in the late 1950s and 60s his best work found new vocal champions among French critics, including the film-maker Bertrand Tavernier. Gréville died in Nice on 26 May 1966.

Film Dope n. 21, Oct. 1980, pp. 12-14
Gréville, Edmond T., 'The Lady Spy and the Legless Man', Film Comment, Jan/Feb 1998, pp. 57-6
Gréville, Edmond T., Trente-cinq ans dans la jungle du cinema (Lyon: Institut Lumière/Actes Sud, 1995)
Porter, Vincent, 'Strangers in a Foreign Land', La Lettre de la Maison Française d'Oxford n.11, Autumn 1999, pp. 59-74
Tavernier, Bertrand, 'Edmond T. Gréville', Film Comment, Jan/Feb. 1998, pp. 54-56, 61-62

Geoff Brown, Bryony Dixon, Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Directors

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of 'Beat' Girl (1959)'Beat' Girl (1959)

Cautionary tale about a respectable girl turned sleazy stripper

Thumbnail image of Noose (1948)Noose (1948)

Stylish 'B' thriller in which a fashion journalist takes on a Soho gangster

Thumbnail image of Secret Lives (1937)Secret Lives (1937)

Stylish thriller about a reluctant female WWI spy

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